June 25, 2015
So there’s a sort of running joke in my family that I dress like a hooker. You get that in families, don’t you? Everyone ganging up on one person to tease them relentlessly about one thing. It’s all in the name of love though, it’s never anything actually hurtful…
Well, in my family, my fashion-forward ways have landed me a load of playful stick and maybe one or two genuinely alarmed comments from elderly relatives. You know what they say, though: many a true word spoken in jest. So, every time a remark is slung my way, it gets me thinking about what/why/where this has come from, and as I analysed the things that were being said to me, I realised it’s all actually brilliant advice – whether it’s meant to be or not…
“You almost look like you’re on the game”
I was meeting a friend for a drink on a Saturday night, so I dressed accordingly; nothing scary, just a top, a skirt, a pair of high heels…and a pair of leg warmers. Wait, hear me out, leg warmers are cute in a retro, Flashdance kind of way, and I thought they worked – until I bumped into an older relative on the way to the station. She gasped when she saw me, before saying: “you almost look like you’re on the game!”. I laughed, and thanked her for her kind use of the word “almost” – until she pointed out that she only said it that way because: “no self-respecting prostitute would wear leg warmers”. It got me thinking, was my skirt too short? Did I really look like a prostitute? The little comments make you suddenly mindful of how you’re dressing.
“It’s the leg warmers!”
This wasn’t the last of the leg warmer based stick I received. A few days later the same female relative brought them up again. I’d been out three nights in a row – none of them dates, I hasten to add, but she asked: “Any dates this week, Francesca?”. “Not this week,” I replied, laughing and shaking my head. “It’s the leg warmers,” she replied. “I told you not to wear leg warmers.” And, fair enough, I may not have worn them on a date, but I was suddenly very conscious of my boner-killing accessories. So, what did I learn? That just because something makes sense fashion-wise, it’s not always going to be a hit with the general public, who might find your look more ridiculous than retro.
“You don’t need to worry about rapists in those tights!”
Anyone who has ever put on a pair or tights, or seen a woman put on a pair of tights, will know what an ordeal it is. It’s both exhausting to do, and entirely gross to spectate. And tights are just the most ridiculous things that are rarely comfortable, but do you know what’s worse than wrestling on a pair of tights? Having corpse-like, ghostly white legs, so wrestle them on we must. That or we have to frig around with stockings and suspender belts and then suddenly your downstairs is a military operation that men will find so incredibly sexy for the twenty seconds it takes them to realise they’d find it easier to get through a chastity belt. So I wiggled into my tights before calling upon a female relative to yank them up a little higher at the back for me. “Wow,” she exclaimed as she pulled them up to bra-level. “You don’t need to worry about rapists in these tights.” Now, I know the goal isn’t to be easily accessible to rapists, but it got me thinking: a full gusset is both impractical and unsexy. If I were (un)dressing to impress, no man would want to have sex with me.
“You’re asking for it in that bra.”
“I bought a new bra today,” I said casually. “How much was it?” a female relative asked, and when I told her I suddenly found myself standing before three female relatives, who all expected me to explain myself. They not only wanted to know how a bra could be worth so much money, but they wanted to see it. Now, it wasn’t anything weird or complex, to be honest I’d paid for a combination of good quality and the label, but standing before the panel of elders like this, I whipped my top up as instructed. “You’re asking for it in that bra,” a 70-something member of my family told me. I wondered: asking for what? Again, it made me mindful of what I was putting out and what I’d be getting back. This particular family member seemed to have overlooked the fact that she could only see my bra because she had requested seeing it, and that any man who might see it, I will have surely already “asked” for it.
“Don’t stock wedding dresses bigger than a size 14 – you don’t want to attract riffraff.”
I’ve told this story on the site before, about the friend of the family who said this about a dress shop a member of my family was opening – who spoke shit right in front of me. Absolute shite in its most basic form, but the thing that makes this woman a spectacularly big see-you-next-Tuesday was the fact that, at the time she said it in front of me, I was ‘plus size’. Obviously, this made me feel like shit. I was bigger than a 14, therefore I was riffraff who didn’t deserve to get married in a pretty dress. Make no mistake about it, this woman is a massive twat for saying that in front of me, and if I’m ever unlucky enough to see her again I will tell her, because much smaller me has the guts (or lack thereof) to say something to horrible women who put people down for how they look – but, it was people making me feel so uncomfortable in my own skin that made me want to change, and I have changed massively for the better. Sure, you can be happy at any size, but it’s much easier to be happier when people aren’t saying things like that to you, or shouting out of moving cars at you, or when you can walk into any shop and not have to worry about the clothes not fitting you.
“Are you not wearing a skirt today?” / “Did they not have a skirt that fit you?”
I’m tall, so if I wear a long skirt, I look legit like a mountain. Do you know what flatters long legs? Short skirts. However, after a collection of comments from both older male and female relatives, it made me question where the line is between flattering my legs and drawing attention to them. Yes, we should all be able to wear whatever we want, but people can be disgusting creatures, so maybe something a little longer might save the embarrassment of men honking their car horns or wolf-whistling. Like I said, we should be able to wear whatever we want, but blending in a little more helps to keep the weirdos away.
“So, do you just not wear clothes anymore?”
An older male relative who a) hadn’t see me in a while and b) hadn’t seen me since I lost loads of weight, said this to me. It made me realise that I’d changed, and that my confidence was shining through, but when a girl told me that when she’d seen the ‘new me’ she’d assumed I’d suddenly be a bitch, because I’d physically changed so much, I must have changed on the inside too. This got me thinking about how people were viewing me now, because yes, I have changed a lot on the outside, but now I make sure people know that I’m still the same ridiculous person on the inside.
“Can I borrow an outfit…for fancy dress day?”
When a female relative asked if she could borrow something from my wardrobe, I jumped for joy! An actual female essentially approving of my clothing, hurrah! So I flung open my wardrobe doors (read: pointed to my floordrobe) and said: “Help yourself, my dear!” just so delighted that someone understood my sense of fashion. That’s when she mentioned that she was looking for something for fancy dress day at work, and that she wanted to borrow a onesie and a tutu. Yep, people look at me wardrobe and see the fancy dress potential. I very swiftly went out and bought some sleek, sexy dresses to offset the fun stuff a little.
“Why does Frankie wear so much make-up?”
And finally, one from a younger relative, because kids only speak the truth so we have to take their feedback the most seriously. It was Christmas time and I was getting ready to go out. I dressed in red, very much in the festive spirit, and I colour-matched my eyeshadow to my outfit. As I went to leave it was still daylight, and I heard my younger relative ask her dad: “Why does Frankie wear so much make-up?”. He just laughed. But, as always, it got me thinking: do I look like a clown?! And, in the harsh light of day, I think I did. My slap was perfect for a Christmas party, but very full-on for the daytime. It did cross my mind that I could start taking my night make-up with me in my handbag, so that I could apply it a little closer to the main event, but then I realised that trying to apply bright red eyeshadow on a moving train might not be the easiest thing in the world, so maybe I’ll just invest in some big sunglasses.
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